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May 6, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #18 - Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter

Due to a realization during my current viewing, I must start any discussion of Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter with this statement: Lead actor Horst Janson, a German beefsteak of an actor whose most popular film is...well, this one...looks exactly like what I think a young Michael Bay on horseback would have looked like.That said, I bring you Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, one of the last wave of horror films to leave the beloved Hammer studios in the 1970s. Written and directed by Brian Clemens - who had earlier helped create the TV legend that is The Avengers - it's a strange entry into Hammer's canon that features the previously mentioned German lead, a slew of scenes set in day light, few corsets, and a bit of sword fighting.

In the countryside around a small village, a cloaked figure has taken up the hobby of draining the life from young women, and only one man's up to the challenge. He is Kronos (inexplicably pronounced Kraw-nos), accompanied by colleague Professor Grost (John Cater) and an indebted waif that he rescues from a stockade (Caroline Munro, who is one of the most beautiful things ever). They meet up with his old friend Dr. Marcus (John Carson), a resident of the plagued village, and the hunt begins.The vampires loose in this world don't fit traditional guidelines - but don't worry, that doesn't mean they sparkle. In this case, the vampire seems to be leaving blood in its victims while stealing their youth. Grost backs this up by sharing that there are many different species of vampires who use different methods of destruction, and Kronos backs him up by relaying that "what he doesn't know about vampires wouldn't fill a flea's codpiece." Most of the events that follow involve Kronos and Kompany searching the woods for clues using tools like red ribbons and reanimated toads. The group also runs into a gang of hooligans, led by Amicus Productions veteran Ian Hendry, leading to a brief and humorous battle in a tavern.

Kronos - as both a character and a film - is methodical to a fault. There isn't a lot of action in Clemens' film, but the sense of intrigue that melds with the fresh ideas it brings to vampire lore always keep me interested in the film. At a time when Hammer was struggling to adapt to the changes in genre cinema, this Vampire Hunter is clearly an attempt to provide a different type of story to the table. While this approach, also evident in films like Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, wouldn't save Hammer, I'm inclined to say that it produced a few horror films that hold a special place in the studio's history and still keep me pleased nearly 40 years later.Janson isn't a particularly interesting lead emotionally, but he brings a strong presence to the lead. Thankfully, Cater and Carson each give strong supporting performances, which help to carry the star through the film's slower moments. Munro is the cast member who makes me most excited about the film, and her talent and beauty are sufficient to ensure that she is always a welcome sight onscreen. It's nice to see Hendry, who was memorable in Theatre of Blood, Tales from the Crypt (Raise your hand if you knew it was a movie before it was a TV show!) and Children of the Damned, in his small role - but I totally wanted to see him put up a longer battle with Kronos.

I know I haven't had a lot to say about Kronos that doesn't make the film sound kind of ridiculous, and it's probably one of the weakest films I've covered as Midnight Movie of the Week yet. But there's a charm in the swashbuckling tale of life-draining vampires vs. a blond with a chiseled jaw that always keeps me smiling when I see it. It's not a movie that's among Hammer's best work, nor is it more than a blip on the radar of 1970s horror, but I still kinda love it. If you ever want to hear how dead toads are linked to vampires, or need more swords in your day, or just want to look at Caroline Munro; Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter is at your service.HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Jinx said...

Super choice! But then I think any Hammer film would make a great midnight movie choice so maybe I'm bias. Caroline Munro is definitely impossibly beautiful though of that I'm certain.

Tower Farm said...

Interesting...I've always wondered how this movie was. I think Horst Janson kinda looks like a meaner Julian Sands. And Caroline, of course, has the most awesome filmography of any actress ever.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I wish this had come earlier in Hammer's era, so it could have spawned even more awesome sequels! Love Captain Kronos!

The Mike said...

Totally agree, Carl. I learned while researching this that it was actually intended as a pilot for a TV series, but that never took off. Shame.